From One Of Our Boys
The following letter was written to one of our citizens by a young soldier in Hays’s Regiment, on the paper taken from the knapsack of one of the New York Zouaves, who fell on the field of Manassas. The paper has at the heading a beautiful picture of the stars and stripes, and the envelope is enameled with a similar picture, and a stanza from the Star Spangled Banner.
The writer says that he was loaded down with the spoils of victory, as Gen. Scott was at Cerro Gordo; that he had several valuable guns, pistols, etc., and most curious of all the trophies, had captured a box of robes de chambre, presented to the Zouaves by the ladies of New York City. He says that his whole company will have a gown apiece, and that they will be very comfortable to sleep in camp:
July 23, 1861.
I fully intended writing you yesterday, but about 9 O’clock, on the evening of the battle, it commenced to rain, and continued throughout the whole of the following day, and we had no covering but the dark heavens. You, of course, know of our glorious victory. It was an open field and no favor, just what the Tribune prayed for, I can only tell you of that part of the fight in which our brigade was concerned.
The fight extended for some two or three miles; morning broke without a cloud; Dame Nature seemed to have put on her Sunday habiliments; we were encamped on a road leading to Bull Run, about 3 miles from where we fought on Wednesday, (Blackburn’s Ford); had just finished breakfast (hard biscuit and raw bacon,) When we heard a cannon fired; immediately, “fall in!” was heard, and we knew that the long wished for battle had commenced.
After half an hour’s walking the enemy saw us, and welcomed us with a perfect shower of shell and cannon balls. They fired badly, and the regimental loss was one killed and five wounded. We remained at Bull Run until 12, noon, under fire the whole time, from 7 A.M., when we were ordered to push on to this place to support Beauregard.
As rapidly as possible nine miles were gotten over, and in two hours we were again on the Battlefield. We ran the whole way, and, without rest formed into line, to charge a Federal regiment on our front. They, however, did not wait for us to advance more than a quarter of a mile, but taking us for fresh troops, gave ground.
The Newtown Artillery galloped round to our left, and gave them a perfect shower of balls. Their firing was the admiration of all, and as each leaden messenger struck the front of the retiring columns, cheer after cheer went up from our lines.
At least the poor fellows, unable to stand the awful havoc, fairly turned and fled. Then it would have done your heart good to have heard the shouts Victory! Victory! None thought of how hard we had worked, every man felt new life and energy.
We went at a fair run after them, but never saw them after they entered the wood in front. The cavalry dashed after them, and the day was our own.
The field was covered with the killed and wounded. Our regiment, (7th.) was very fortunate, under fire for seven hours, and only 25 reported killed and wounded.
In our company, (B, Crescent Rifles) one wounded; Corporal Fisher, received a flesh wound; a spent ball struck me on the thumb. It is wonderful that no more of our regiment were killed or wounded as a prisoner told me they saw us coming, and ranged their guns to make sure of us when we passed the open field.
Their best troops were against us all day; the ground, for miles, is strewn with arms, blankets, haversacks, etc.,
This paper was the property of a Fire Zouaves from whose haversack I also made my supper, we having pitched all our things away on the road. I have one of the dressing gowns, presented by the ladies of New York to the soldiers; also, a bayonet for your father’s musket, taken from the above mentioned Zouave. I will send them as soon as I can get a chance. I would have sent the rifle, but was unable to carry it, with so much else.
After the battle, Jeff. Davis reviewed us, with loud cheers all along the lines. I was near him, and this was word for word all he said:
“Soldiers, your country owes you a debt of gratitude, and believe me, every heart is proud of you.”
The morning after the battle, Lieut. Knox and myself went over the field, and such a scene, – men and horses lying together, their blood mingling in one stream. Some poor wounded fellows had been left in the rain all night. We did what we could for them, friend and foe alike, and the simple “God bless you, sir,” was worth more than all the spoils on the field to me.
To-morrow, we will have been a week on the march. Such weather! not a dry day; no clothes to change, and nothing but our blankets to cover us; our food, hard crackers and raw bacon, as we cannot always make fires, for the enemy would see them, but not a murmur was heard for it can’t be helped, and we are here to protect all that we hold most dear.
The Daily Delta, 8/1/1861.
Jackson Barracks – Historical Military Data on Louisiana Militia, Vol. 113, pp. 10-15.